The Power of Teamwork
Farrah Mittel, president of Schaedler Yesco Distribution (SYD), is a firm believer in the idea that “those who are closest to the work are the best to ask for input.”
She knows that although she is the president, her team are the ones who make it happen.
A York County native, Mittel graduated from Penn State University with a B.S. in public policy … but ended up in the electrical distribution field by “complete accident,” she said.
Her original plan was to attend law school, but an encounter with an acquaintance who worked for SYD and mentioned that the company was interested in growing their government sales division changed her mind. She was working for the the Office of District Attorney of York County as a deputy administrator at the time but was intrigued by the opportunity with SYD, so she applied.
“I have some practical experience in that area,” Mittel said. “I interviewed and was hired in 2006 as the quality administrator, a role that proved to be a great training ground to really learn about the company and the industry.”
As the quality administrator, Mittel was able to work with all the departments, giving her an opportunity to learn the product.
“A year later, I moved into government sales; a few years later, marketing; then business development; then branch manager; then regional VP; then president.”
Mittel had discussed her interest in being part of the succession plan for SYD with Jim Schaedler, the CEO, as she moved through the ranks.
“He was looking for someone who had strong business acumen, a keen eye for strategic growth, and characterized the culture of the company,” she said. “Once I expressed my interest in the opportunity, he started defining the path through the company that contributed to my personal and professional development.”
She officially became president on Jan. 1, 2019, and although it was something for which she had been planning and preparing, “the actual day it became official was surreal,” she said. “I was honored for the opportunity to lead such an amazing company, committed to being successful (I had some big shoes to fill), but most importantly, excited to get started.”
She does admit that during her first year as president, there were times when she felt overwhelmed, “especially when I sat back and thought about all of the opportunity sitting before us and what was needed in order for us to adapt to changes … especially when it comes to meeting customer expectations.”
Luckily for Mittel, she inherited a team who were “very experienced, tenured people who had been members of the executive leadership team long before I arrived on the scene,” she said.
Their advice and expertise has been invaluable in helping her in her role as president.
“Our individual journeys to becoming members of the executive leadership team have been very different, which has provided an extremely positive outcome. We complement each other’s strengths and offset each other’s weaknesses,” she said.
As the female president of a company in a traditionally male-dominated field, Mittel said that it has been both “a privilege and a hindrance.”
She said that although it has certainly opened doors for her as far as satisfying curiosities of some, or the desire of others to help her break tradition, she has also experienced certain stereotypes and conservative beliefs that have been a challenge.
“There will always be people whom we connect with and people we don’t,” Mittel said. “For the most part, I have had a very positive experience in the field and industry by simply being me.”
Along the way, Mittel has learned not to be afraid to get involved — to jump in and do the dirty work if it needs doing.
“I always welcome different perspectives so that I can be as informed as possible when making decisions,” she said.
Mittel enjoys the variety the job offers, presenting her with the opportunity to spend time with employees, customers, and vendors, covering “everything from business conditions to strategy to overall organizational health.
“I ensure the company is growing, remaining valuable to our existing and future customers, and that our employees are working hard and going home happy,” she said.
Speaking of happy employees, according to the SYD website, the company was named 13th in the Best Places to Work in PA annual award program. It was the ninth year in a row and 13th time overall that SYD has won the award.
Her work is a big part of her life, and because she truly loves what she does, Mittel said that she does not really consider it work.
“It’s just my life; it’s what I do,” she said.
As far as what the future might hold, Mittel isn’t planning to go anywhere anytime soon.
“I’ve only been in this role for a year,” she said. “I hope I have several years left to help SYD grow and evolve as a company.”